The Beauty of God’s Wrath

God’s wrath is the most unpopular of his attributes, and understandably so. But if we stare at the gospel long enough, even God’s wrath seems beautiful.

Psalm 75:6-8 says,

For not from the east or from the west
    and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,
but it is God who executes judgment,
    putting down one and lifting up another.
For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup
    with foaming wine, well mixed,
and he pours out from it,
    and all the wicked of the earth
    shall drain it down to the dregs.

That’s intense. And it should be. After all, the psalm is referring to the holy God of the universe who cannot tolerate sin, lest he ceases to be God. In that God’s hand, there is a cup of wrath from which the wicked will one day drink.

That sounds like terrible news until you turn right in your Bible and read this in the gospel of John:

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic.

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:23, 28-30)

Jesus thirsted on the cross; not just for water for his body, which I’m sure he did, but for the love of his Father.

The Father, whom he had known and loved and enjoyed for all of eternity up to that point, had always replied with grace.

But not this time.

Instead of grace, Jesus tasted justice. Just like the soldiers who shoved the sour wine to Jesus’ cotton-dry mouth, the Father thrust forward his foaming cup of wrath to the lips of his Son—but he didn’t make Jesus drink it.

***

Earlier, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus knew he would be presented with this cup. And it nearly killed him.

Knowing this moment would come, he fell to his knees in the garden and twice cried out in agony to his father: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me” (Mark 14:36; Matthew 26:39-42). His sweat turned to blood at the terror of that foaming cup.

Yet, knowing full well the horrors to come, Jesus said, “Yet not what I will, but what you will,” and set his face towards Jerusalem, a Lamb going to the slaughter.

***

As his Father’s hand shoved forward the well-mixed cup of wrath, Jesus grabbed it, drained it down to the dregs, and said, “It is finished.”

After uttering those final words, Jesus gave up the ghost and was buried in a borrowed tomb for three days, and darkness descended on the land.

But on Sunday morning, the Son’s light flooded the earth as he raised himself from the dead, declaring that his life was not and never would be finished.

The beauty of God’s wrath is that we can escape it! Jesus drank the cup of wrath so that we wouldn’t have to.

Psalm 75 ends with these words:

But I will declare it forever;
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
All the horns of the wicked I will cut off,
but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up. (Psalm 75:9-10)

The wrath our sin deserves has been satisfied by Jesus for those who believe that he is the risen Son of God who was crucified, died, buried, and raised to life according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).

Those who believe receive Jesus’ righteousness and are lifted up as sons and daughters of the living God for all eternity.

I will declare it forever.

I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.

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